As Mandarin Chinese is a critical, non-romance language and a growing form of global communication, it is essential to provide a strong framework for teaching each component of the language and the related culture. As with any language it is important to utilize the best resources, practices, and individuals to create the most successful environment for a child to become bilingual.
At Shu Ren International School, we teach simplified Chinese as simplified characters are much more prevalent throughout Mandarin speaking communities. Thus, learning and mastering simplified characters first enables our students to be able to effectively communicate with more individuals and groups, successfully navigate increasingly complex cultural environments, and improve their overall Mandarin language literacy. It is also much easier for children to write simplified characters which in turn allows for a higher level of literacy in young learners.
While our preschool program is 100% immersion, at the elementary and middle schools we utilize a two way/Montreal model of language immersion to teach Mandarin and English:
- Preschool: approximately 100% Mandarin
- Grades K-1: approximately 20% English – 80% Mandarin
- Grade 2: approximately 40% English – 60% Mandarin
- Grades 3-5: approximately 50% English – 50% Mandarin
Our Mandarin speaking teachers abide by the IB curriculum and teach the content of the Unit of Inquiry in Mandarin. Unity of Inquiry content focuses on broad subject matter and conceptual understanding. Our teachers then utilize “stand alone” Chinese language teaching practices via the “Easy Steps to Chinese” textbook to enforce some of the more intricate areas of Mandarin language learning such as: pinyin, high frequency/daily use vocabulary, and character stroke order.
In Grade 1 and upwards, teachers utilize technology, such as iChineseReader, and assign a weekly online book where specific features can be set to include pinyin or no pinyin to further differentiation and encourage individual student growth. Students also have access to leveled reading books that include stories that are categorized into language ability and proficiency levels (i.e. a level 1 book may have 100 characters). Teachers support children in completing coursework by providing clear and sufficient instruction, by taking the time to provide meaningful feedback on completed assignments, and by discussing commonly made mistakes in class with the students as a group.
Furthermore, our English and Mandarin teachers work together to align their curriculum and utilize similar vocabulary and concepts to ensure continuity.